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Liked the look of: 12 eye-catching players from week two of NAB Challenge

Staff writers  February 28, 2016 8:48 PM

AFL 2016 NAB Challenge - Richmond v Hawthorn

Connor Menadue impressed in Richmond's big win over Hawthorn on Saturday

Jeremy Finlayson (Greater Western Sydney)
Another product of the GWS academy, Finlayson struggled early in his first season after hip surgery but grew in confidence in the NEAFL during the second half of the season. An athletic key position player who came to the club as a forward, the 20 year-old spent most of Thursday night's game against the Bulldogs in defence and looked a likely prospect. Finlayson possesses a long left foot kick and should continue to develop around the experience of Heath Shaw, Phil Davis and Joel Patfull.

Matt Suckling (Western Bulldogs)
The former Hawk started the match against the Giants on a wing and with that penetrating left foot, showed just how valuable he will be for the Dogs this year. Luke Beveridge has plenty of skillful players in his line-up but Suckling brings more than a quality kick, he can pin point the footy and break lines where other players can't. His experience in defence will also be critical for the Bulldogs because he can chop and change with the likes of skipper Bob Murphy, Matthew Boyd and the speedy Jason Johannisen, to give his side some outstanding flexibility. - Adam Curley

Jordan De Goey (Collingwood)
Entering his second season, the No.5 selection in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft looks set to impact games already. He had 24 disposals, 11 contested possessions and five clearances, standing out in the No.2 jumper he assumed this season after spending his first season in No.35. Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said De Goey has had a big pre-season and was ready to spend more time in the midfield. He looks a sure bet while the other standout for the night Mason Cox has enormous upside.

Zac Smith (Geelong)
After an excellent first season with Gold Coast, the young ruckman struggled with injury and form before crossing to Geelong. His leap at the first bounce was an indication of the value he might provide, getting his hands on the ball first and giving the midfielders a chance to dictate play. The Cats have not had that luxury for a long time so will be licking their lips at the prospect. Smith still has some rough edges. He dropped a sitter before the ball bounced back in his hands and he kicked a supergoal. The challenge for him is to still be as impressive in August. - Peter Ryan

Jimmy Toumpas (Port Adelaide)

It was hardly a huge game from Toumpas, but the former Melbourne midfielder continued his pre-season form built on a big summer. He's vastly improved his conditioning this summer and ran hard again on Saturday. It was a tough day out, but Toumpas won 17 possessions, laid four tackles and had one goal assist. He also showed aggression late in the game by showing a much bigger opponent he wouldn't be pushed around after receiving a stray knee to the back of the head.

Max Gawn (Melbourne)
It usually takes several seasons for bigger players to hit their stride at the elite level and on that reckoning Demons ruckman
Gawn is primed to make his move in 2016 – his seventh season in the AFL. Gawn was the most dominant player at Playford Alive Oval, finishing the game with 42 hit-outs and 15 possessions in a match-winning performance that put Matthew Lobbe in the shade. - Harry Thring

Jimmy Toumpas squares up to former teammate Tom McDonald. Picture: Getty Images

Connor Menadue (Richmond)
Richmond blooded the 19-year-old utility in five games last season and on Saturday's showing, Menadue could easily push towards the best 22 if he continues his development. A handy size at 187cm, Menadue can take a strong grab, finds the footy and finishes off neatly – as evidenced by two impressive set shot goals he booted despite a swirly breeze that troubled others at Beaconsfield on Saturday. Word out of Tigerland is Menadue has taken his professionalism to another level this summer and his flexibility could be handy in the reduced interchange era.
Blake Hardwick (Hawthorn)
Hardwick made his name in the TAC Cup as a forward capable of turning it on, with bags of 12 and 10 goals propelling him to the League's leading goalkicker award. But it was a less eye-catching piece of play that made his teammate Isaac Smith stand and applaud on Saturday, when Hardwick bulldozed his way through two would-be tacklers and dished a handball to a teammate. It wouldn't make many highlight reels, but for a kid in his first game in brown and gold it was telling. Hardwick can kick goals (he booted his first against the Tigers from 12 disposals), has a high footy IQ and he's tough. The 19-year-old should fit in well at Waverley. – Travis King

Blake Hardwick tackles Daniel Rioli on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

Sam Michael (Essendon)

Coach John Worsfold summed up his ruck recruit when he said on Sunday "he’s not going to finesse too much". That isn't going to be a bad thing for the Bombers' big man, who caught the eye in Sunday's NAB Challenge clash against Carlton with his bullocking style at stoppages and movement around the ground. His output dropped in the second half, but there was enough to be encouraged by from the former Brisbane Lion. He spotted up targets by foot in the corridor, took a nice contested mark, and worked into the right areas. It was a solid effort for a player who has played key position most of his career. – Nathan Schmook    
Jacob Weitering (Carlton)
There's not much people don't know about No.1 draft picks these days, but perhaps it was just how confident and assured Weiteringlooked at AFL level that surprised. Watching him move with the game and direct less prepared teammates, it's hard to believe he was an 18-year-old in his first match against AFL opposition. Weitering finished with nine marks (six intercepts), 19 possessions and he used the ball better than most Blues. It was a performance that demanded round one selection and it's hard to see him dropping out of the Carlton team. – Nathan Schmook 

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Tommy Sheridan (Fremantle)
Ross Lyon said a number of Dockers had failed to cement a round one spot but Sheridan was not one of those. He had established himself in the team last year and played in the finals series but had a moment to forget in the preliminary final. But he's bounced back this pre-season and looked very impressive against Adelaide. He collected 28 possessions and was very damaging with his run off half-back. The Dockers are hoping to improve their ball movement from defence and Sheridan's run and line-breaking ability will certainly help. 

Rory Atkins (Adelaide)
The 21-year-old has only played eight games after being recruited in 2012 and they all came last season following some strong form in the SANFL. He looks set to play a bit more in 2016 after a good day in the midfield against Fremantle. He gathered 25 disposals, with three rebound 50s and three inside 50s, and was a key contributor to the Crows' impressive ball movement in Mount Barker. The Crows' midfield has been a tough one to break into but he did his chances no harm. 

Tommy Sheridan was all smiles after the Dockers' win over the Crows. Picture: AFL Media